Cruise-themed Anniversary Party Part 2: The Project Plan

Depending who you ask, you’ll get different answers to the question, “what makes a party great?” Some might say it’s the food, others the location (especially if it’s somewhere fabulous) and then there are those who think it’s the activities that make an event memorable.

I’m a firm believer that it’s all of these things – the full experience – that truly make a party. Unfortunately, it can be any one thing that can also “break” a party, so it’s important to do your best with all the major elements. In order to help with planning all of the details and working with others involved in putting on the party, I like to create a party project plan. I even create these when I’m throwing a party solo (because usually my husband is helping or someone has volunteered to bring food or something else). I find they are a good way to keep myself from regularly worrying about when I need to do certain things or if I have everything accounted for.

There really isn’t much to a project plan. As a project manager by trade, I’m used to writing these day in and out and I’ve seen tons of variations. But, I like to keep mine simple so it’s easy for me to keep updated and share with others without them thinking I’m totally crazy. The core basics to include on a solid project plan are:

  • Activity name – what is the task or action that needs to be accomplished?
  • Owner – who is going to be responsible for doing whatever the activity is?
  • Status – what’s happening with the activity?
  • Due date – when do you absolutely have to have it complete?
  • Comments – what info is relevant about the activity (decisions, input, issues, etc.) that you want to note?

You can see my sample project plan here that I built for the upcoming anniversary party. This is just my first draft and it’s likely that as I start to get into some of the activities in the plan, other things will arise and need to be added. It’s not important to get the plan 100% complete and perfect from day 1…just to get it started and keep it updated as you go so nothing slips through the cracks.

Once you have a simple tracker started either on paper or digitally (feel free to download and edit mine!), then you can brainstorm all the activities that you think need to go on it and assign owners and due dates. Here are some rules of thumb I use for due dates and owners:

  • Owners
    • Assign the person who is going to be responsible for getting the activity done, even if they need to consult others for their input on it.
    • Be up front with your expectations for owners of activities – are you hoping they will keep the plan up to date or will you manage that?
    • It’s okay to generalize activity names by owner – as long as the owner knows what they’re supposed to do as part of the activity, you don’t need to write out every little detail.
  • Due dates
    • Start at the end and work backward.
    • Send invites 1 month before your event.
    • Request RSVPs 1 week prior to your event (and then use this date for final food / seating planning).
    • Remember they are “drop dead” dates – aka the latest possible date the activity can be done to stay on track. Ideally, work ahead when possible.

While it might seem a little OTT to create a project plan for your next event, I promise it will be worth the 10-15 minute time investment by reducing your stress levels and helping you feel more prepared overall. Give it a shot!

If you have any questions or a unique situation you want advice on, leave a comment below! And, stay tuned for the next installment of this series where I’ll cover the process of choosing a location.

Annual Cleaning Plan Design

This post is by reader request (thanks, Mama). At the beginning of 2017, I decided I wanted to try out a few resolutions to see if I could make them behaviors. I made three goals (two personal, one home) – this one is all about my home goal of getting on an weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, semi-annual and annual cleaning schedule. Now, let me start by saying you don’t have to go to that level. I have  found that sometimes I slack on the more regularly recurring items, but in general am doing a decent job sticking to this. So, here is a step by step guide to building a cleaning plan, along with my cleaning plan as an example.

  1. Decide the granularity. This is a thing I talk about with co-workers a lot (due to the nature of our work) – how granular into the detail do we get? You need to sort this out first because it will impact your upcoming steps. Do you want to plan down to the every week activities? What do you want your recurrences to be? Here are some options to consider: Daily, Weekly, Bi-weekly (also known as fortnightly), Semi-monthly, Monthly, Quarterly, Semi-annual, Annual. I suppose if you wanted, you could go to larger periods of time (like Bi-annual, or every 2 years), but I would recommend you cap it at Annual.
  2. Make an activity list. This can be a bit hard, especially for the items that occur less frequently (you probably think about them a whole lot less frequently too, or it’s something you never really notice). I would encourage you to check out Pinterest – there are some good suggestions of items to include using search terms like Cleaning Schedule or Seasonal Cleaning. You can also check out my plan below for what I’m doing. When you’re working on this step, consider your level of granularity – if you are not considering daily or weekly activities, you don’t need to include things like laundry, dishes, or taking out the trash. On the flip side, if it’s easier for you to make a list of all your cleaning duties, you can just filter these items out in the next step.
  3. Sort the activities. Next to each activity on the list, determine the frequency you need to complete it each year – once, twice, every 3 months, etc. Consider the level of granularity that you chose in #1 – you want to break your list up into these groups. If something on your list is outside those cadences, you need to determine if the frequency changes, the item is omitted, or you add a level of granularity. Basically, this is what my paper looked like: Schedule no assignments
  4. Determine the when. For this step, you can basically ignore anything that will occur monthly or more frequently. If you have quarterly, semi-annual or annual activities, this step is for you. Start with your annual activities because this group will be the easiest to assign. Take the number of activities and divide by 12. This will give you how often you need to schedule an annual activity. I had 12 annual activities, which made it really easy to determine I needed to schedule 1 activity every month. (You may be thinking to yourself – I don’t get it, why don’t we just do all the annual stuff at the same time every year? Well, because that sounds like it’s going to suck a lot, in my opinion, to have to do that. However, if that is your style and you’re okay dedicating a weekend to knock everything out, you may also feel free to skip this step.) I went through my list and decided which month paired best with each activity, taking into consideration factors like weather, other activities at the same time of year, etc. I then applied this same method for my semi-annual activities list, except this time, I divided by 6 because these activities would occur 2x a year (12/2=6). I had 14 items on this list, which meant I needed to schedule 2 activities per month and then add 1 activity to four months (ie, 8 months would have 2 activities (4 semi-annual sets) and the other 4 months would have 3 activites (2 semi-annual sets). I then paired up my months (January/July, February/August, March/September, April/October, May/November, June/December) and assigned them to the groups of tasks. I didn’t go to the quarterly level, but for that, you’d divide by 4. As with my annual activities, I applied reasoning on weather and time of year impacts to these pairings. Here is how it worked out for me:Schedule with assignments
  5. Schedule the activities. Once you’ve worked out what you need to do each day/week/month, you need to go through and schedule it onto a calendar with reminders. I am a fan of the Google products (and am a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 user, aka Android), so I have my calendar synced to my Gmail and on my phone. This enables me to get both phone alerts and email reminders. I even have a smart watch (Samsung Gear Fit 2) that’s connected to my phone and vibrates my wrist with reminders, so it makes it pretty hard to ignore. The other great part about using a synced calendar like Google Calendar is that you can sync other email addresses to the same calendar. I have my hubs hooked up so I can invite him to events we have going on (like our Family Dinner Meeting every Friday night – more about this in another post, or my family gatherings, of which there are many). So, he is able to see what’s going on and, when he’s interested, will take part in the cleaning plan. (NOTE: I do not have him set up to receive reminders – something to think about if you share your calendar with anyone, you can customize who gets what reminders.) I entered my activities in this order: Weekly, Bi-Weekly, Monthly, Semi-Annual and Annual. I went in this order so I could try to ensure one Saturday didn’t end up getting activities in EVERY category – if you vary between days of the week, this won’t be as big of a deal. For each group, I added the recurrence, set the time I wanted to set aside for the activity and also set a reminder. See below for how to do this in Google Calendar: GoogleCalendar
  6. Clean. This is the final, and if you ask me, hardest step. Since I can tend to be really good at planning and sometimes slackerish on the follow through (can’t we all), I went one step further and made a tracker to keep a record of the actual dates I completed my semi-annual and annual activities. I have justified this level of ridiculousness to myself by adding a cost column to track anything I have to spend to complete the activities (ie, purchasing a new filter for my fridge). But, and this little tidbit is a non-cleaning related bonus, I also have started keeping track of the money I spend on my home (which comes in handy for insurance purposes, should you ever need it, and is helpful for reference later on). This includes things like purchasing large pieces of furniture, installing new features or items, building any custom pieces, or making any significant changes. Each of these trackers is a separate tab in an Excel spreadsheet – here are some screen grabs of what these look like:Trackers

If you’re a control freak like I am and like to plan and document everything, check back for a post on my Monthly Budget Excel Book.